Voice Types in Opera - Soprano                                                                                                                         Operamania.com


Voice Type Video Extracted from
Coloratura soprano

Joan Sutherland

Edita Gruberova

June Anderson

Mariella Devia

Kathleen Battle

Sumi Jo


Mariella Devia - Spargi d'amaro pianto

Lyric soprano

Mirella Freni

Renata Tebaldi

Monterrat Caballe

Kiri Te Kanawa



Mirella Freni - Si, mi chiamano Mimi

Dramatic soprano

Leontyne Price

Zinka Milanov

Aprile Millo

Cheryl Studer

Birgit Nilsson

Eva Marton

Maria Callas


Raina Kabaivanska - Miserere

Soprano--the highest of the female voice types, the soprano has always had a place of prominence in the hierarchy of vocal types. In the operatic drama, the soprano is almost always the 'heroine' or protagonist of an opera. As is true of the other voice types, there are sub-categories of soprano, a few of which are listed here:

Coloratura soprano--a female voice with an 'upper extension' of high notes and a light quality or color which allows the voice to be capable of rapid and highly ornamented passages. The roles of Lakmé, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos are examples of coloratura soprano roles. There are, however, roles that demand the upper extension and flexibility of voice yet with a heavier quality or darker color. These are dramatic coloratura roles. The role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute demands such a voice, as do the Verdi roles of Lady Macbeth and Abagaille in Nabucco.

Lyric soprano--a female voice that is 'silkier' in texture or quality and has a lower range than the coloratura. The role of Micaëla in Carmen is a lyric soprano, as is Pamina in The Magic Flute and, although a bit more demanding, Mimì in La bohème. Heavier lyric roles might include Gounod's Juliette or Marguerite in Faust, Rusalka, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro and Violetta in La traviata, although the latter role makes great demands in terms of both coloratura and dramatic heft.

Dramatic soprano--the 'heaviest' or most darkly-colored of the soprano types. As the name implies, the requirements for this voice type go beyond the lyric repertoire because of the strenuous dramatic demands. In the Italian repertoire, Tosca, Butterfly, Aida, Norma and Leonora (Il trovatore) would be considered dramatic soprano roles. In the German repertoire, Brünnhilde, Sieglinde, Leonore (Fidelio) and Isolde would be considered dramatic soprano roles. The range for the dramatic soprano is generally somewhat lower than the lyric or lyric-spinto, but often she is called upon to sing high passages for dramatic emphasis, making these roles quite strenuous for younger singers.

The list of singers given as examples for each of the voice types is not obviously meant to be exhaustive, and many great singers are missing. Also note that some of the great stars expanded their repertoire well beyond a single voice type: Maria Callas not only performed masterfully from coloratura to dramatic soprano, but even adventured in Mezzo roles as Carmen or Rosina (The Barber of Seville).

Mezzo / Contralto Tenor Baritone / Bass

(c) Text reproduced with permission from www.operapaedia.org and San Diego Opera